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English Grammar - Omission of the Article

Omission of the Article

The article is omitted:

1. before names of substances and abstract nouns (i.e. uncountable nouns) used in a general sense; as

Sugar is bad for your teeth.
Gold is a precious metal.

Note: uncountable nous take the when used in a particular sense (especially when qualified by an adjective or adjectival phrase of clause); as,

Would you pass me the sugar? (= the sugar on the table)

2. before plural countable nouns used in a general sense; as,

Children like chocolates.

Note that such nouns take the when used with a particular meaning; as,

Where are the children? (=our children)

3. before most proper nouns (except those referred to earlier), namely, names of people (e.g. John), names of continents, countries, cities etc. (e.g. Europe, Poland), names of individual mountains (e.g. Mount Everest), individual islands, lakes, hills etc.

Note: when the article is used before Proper nouns, they become Common nouns; as,

This man is a second Newton (i.e. a scientist as great as Newton).

4. before languages; as,

We are studying English.

5. before school, college, church, bed, table, hospital, market, prison, when these places are visited or used for their primary purpose; as,

We go to church on Sundays.

Note: the is used with these words when we refer to them as a definite place, building or object rather than to the normal activity that goes on there; as,

The school is very near my home.
I met him at the church.

6. before names of relations, like father, mother, aunt, uncle, and also cook and nurse, meaning ‘our cook’, ‘our nurse’, as

Father has returned.
Aunt wants you to see her.
Cook has given notice.

7. before predicative nous denoting a unique position, i.e., a position that is normally held at one time by one person only; as,

He was elected chairman of the Board.

8. in certain phrases consisting of a transitive verb following by its object; as,

To catch fire, to take breath, to cast anchor, to send word, to bring word, to lay siege, to set sail, to lose heart, to set foot, to leave home, to strike root, to take offence.

9. in certain phrases consisting of a preposition followed by its object; as,

At home, in hand, in debt, by day, by night, at daybreak, at sunrise, at noon, at sunset, at night, at anchor, at sight, on demand, on earth, by land, by water, by river, by train, by steamer, by name, on horseback, on foot, on deck, in jest, at dinner, at ease, under ground, above ground.

Worksheet

Fill in the blanks with a, an, or the as the case may be. Leave blank if the article can be omitted.

  • ………….. Honesty is the best policy.
  • This is ………….. best student in my class.
  • I can’t forget …………… kindness with which he treated me.
  • …………….Computers are used in many offices.
  • He was …………. Shakespeare of this country.
  • They speak ……………. French at home.
  • My uncle is at ………….. home.
  • I went to ……………. hospital to visit my uncle.
  • Mr. Clemens became ……………….. Principal of the college in 2015.
  • …………………. Mother seems to be very angry with me.

Answers

  • Honesty is the best policy.
  • This is the best student in my class.
  • I can’t forget the kindness with which he treated me.
  • Computers are used in many offices.
  • He was the Shakespeare of this country.
  • They speak French at home.
  • My uncle is at home.
  • I went to hospital to visit my uncle.
  • Mr. Clemens became Principal of the college in 2015.
  • Mother seems to be very angry with me.


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